Category Archives: exercises

Dance Bright Workshop Series

By: Courtney Holcomb

Over the years I have worked with hundreds of dancers on both technique, choreography, and conditioning. I’ve said a lot of the same corrections over the years, seen a lot of the same injuries, and witnessed the gap in traditional dance training to teach the HOW TO of many corrections. The purpose of a dance class is to keep the class moving, which means there is not always time for teachers to break down body mechanics and explain the corrections they may be giving. That is why I’ve designed the Dance Bright Workshop Series.

Dance Bright is a workshop series that focuses on movement education and intelligent strength and conditioning specifically for dancers. The purpose of Dance Bright is to help dancers improve their body awareness, better understand their anatomy and alignment, and learn about proper muscle recruitment and release techniques.  These workshops dig deeper into specific concepts and corrections that come up often in dance classes, but that a dance class setting doesn’t always have time to fully explain or explore.  Dance Bright will help close the gap between what dancers are told they should be doing, and how they can do it.

Workshops combine an element of lecture, movement exploration, strengthening, and stretching. 

The series is designed for dancers ages 12-adult.

Join us for our first workshop in the Dance Bright series, “Understanding our Hips and Core”, Wednesday, August 21st, 1:15-3:30 PM, located at Waveforms Pilates, 210 S. Commercial Street, Neenah, WI.

This workshop explores pelvic placement/alignment, proper core function and use, strengthening strategies for our hip stabilizers, as well as release techniques for tightness in the hip area. Through a combination of lecture, movement exploration, strengthening, and stretching, students will leave with an understanding of how to align and stabilize their hips to support the dynamic movements required while dancing.

Cost of workshop is $59 and includes a pinky ball and Franklin air ball for dancers to take home with them to incorporate the exercises and stretching strategies they learn at the workshop.

The Dance Bright Workshop Series was designed by Courtney Anne Holcomb.  She is a professional dancer, choreographer, PMA®-Certified Pilates Trainer, and owner of Waveforms Pilates in Neenah, WI.  She received a BA in Dance, and brings over 15 years of dance and fitness instruction, 9+ years of Pilates training, and professional performance credentials.  She’s worked with dancers ages 2.5-adult to help improve their technique, alignment, confidence, and expression through movement.

To join our specific mailing list for Dance Bright follow this link.


Moving in All Directions with Waveforms Pilates

Category : exercises , fitness , movement , Pilates

Pilates Exercises for a Healthy Spine

**As featured in Appleton Monthly’s April 2018 “Healthy You” Edition.

Joseph Pilates, creator of the Pilates Method of fitness once said, “a man is as young as his spinal column. If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.” We spend most of our days sitting, slouching forward, and rarely moving our spines at all, and it’s taking a toll on our bodies—and our posture.

Pilates moves the spine in all directions to help create resilience and flexibility that will keep your body feeling young through your years. Try these four exercises to

increase your spinal mobility and eliminate stiffness after a long period of sitting. Feel the spine flex, rotate, side bend, and extend!

 

Spine Stretch Forward

Set-up:  Sit up tall on your hips with the legs straight and shoulder-width apart.  Flex your ankles and reach your arms forward at shoulder height.

Exercise:  Inhale, and pull your abs in as you slide the shoulder blades forward.  Reach and round through the spine as if you were bending over a fitness ball.  Exhale, draw the shoulder blades back down your back as you roll to sit up tall on your hips.  Repeat 6-8 times.

*Pro Tips: Think about elongating the spine forward, rather than “crunching” it forward. How much reach can you feel through the crown of your head?  This exercise stretches the mid and upper back, so keep your hips anchored throughout the exercise (the pressure on the base of the pelvis should not change at all as you perform the movement).

Modification:  If you are unable to sit-up all on your hips, place a soft bend in the knees so you can sit perpendicular to the ground, or prop yourself up on a pillow or book.

 

 

Modified Corkscrew

Set-up:  Lay on your back with arms at your side, and extend your legs up to the ceiling at hip-height.  Point through your ankles and squeeze the legs together.

Exercise:  Inhale, swing both legs to the right, allowing the left hip to lift up and off the mat. Continue circling the legs down towards the ground while stabilizing both sides of the pelvic. Exhale, lift the legs back up towards the ceiling allowing the right hip to leave the mat, and return the legs to the starting position.  Reverse the exercise by beginning to the left. Repeat 3-6 times each direction.

*Pro tips: Only let the legs lower toward the ground as much as you can without arching the low back.  Feel for the subtle rotation of the low back as the hip lifts off the mat, keeping the hips level, the hip is lifting, but not hiking towards the ribcage.

Modification:  For more support, allow the arms to be out in a “T” with the palms facing down, or keep the legs bent at a 90 degree angle while performing the exercise.

 

Side Leg Bananas

Set-up: Lay on your side with your head, shoulders, hips, and heels all in one straight line.  Rest your head on your bicep with your palm facing towards the ceiling. Place your opposite hand palm facing down in front of your torso.

Exercise:  Take an inhale to prepare for the movement. On the exhale, engage your core and lift both legs up and off of the mat.  Feel your top hip move towards your ribcage. Inhale to lower back down, and on the next exhale, keep your legs down and lift your upper body off the mat all the way to the bottom of the shoulder blade using your waistline.  Lower back down and try lifting both upper and lower together on your next exhale. Repeat the whole sequence (lower, upper, both) 2-3 times, then switch to lie on the other side and repeat.

*Pro tips:  Keep the body in one long line from fingers to toes.  Think about pressing your waistline down into the mat to help you stabilize as you lift.

Modification:  Turn the palm of the arm overhead to face the ground and press into it while lifting just the head and legs off of the mat.

 

Swan

Set-up:  Lay on your stomach with the palms facing down right below your shoulders, elbows pointing up.  Legs long behind you as close together as is comfortable for your low back.

Exercise:  Inhale and engage the abs and press into your palms.  Exhale, and slowly begin peeling the spine up and off the mat one vertebra at a time.  Keep the shoulders gliding down your back, and lift only as high as you comfortably can.  Try to feel for even extension through the spine, head is in line with the spine. Inhale at the top, and exhale to slowly lower the spine back down to the mat with control.  Repeat 4-6 times.

*Pro tips:  Keep the low back long and feel for a stretch through the front of your hips.  As you lower back down to the mat, imagine the spine is pressing through the chest to stretch it longer as you lower down.  Try to maintain the shoulders down and wide across your back throughout the exercise.

Modification:  Place your hands level with your ears, and only rise as up to your elbows.  Focus on anchoring the pubic bone into the mat the keep the pressure off of your low back.


The Ultimate Ab Workout – The Pilates Series of Five

Category : exercises , fitness , Pilates , workout

By: Courtney Holcomb, Pilates Instructor at Waveforms Pilates

 

Are you looking for an ab series that is quick and effective? Time to try the Pilates Series of Five.  This popular Pilates sequence is sure to get you feeling your abdominals and working the core!  Best part? It only takes 2 minutes to complete from start to finish.

 

The basic series includes these five exercises:

1. Single Leg Stretch

2. Double Leg Stretch

3. Single Straight Leg Stretch

4. Double Straight Leg Stretch

5. Criss-Cross

 

This series builds lean muscle tissue which is responsible for tightening the waistline.  This added strength in the core will help improve your posture so you’re standing taller and feeling more confident!

 

Perform each exercise below for ten repetitions before moving to the next. Start to finish; go through each set without stopping.  Let’s get started!

 

Single Leg Stretch

 

Keep the pelvis stable and lift the head and shoulders off the mat.  Inhale as you hug the right shin in with wide elbows. The opposite leg shoots out long at a high diagonal.  Exhale to change legs.  An exchange from right to left counts as one rep.

 

 

Draw both legs into the chest to transition into…

 

Double Leg Stretch

 

Begin with both shins hugged into the chest. Extend and reach the arms high overhead (without lowering the shoulders) and send the legs out long to the high diagonal.  Circle the arms to gather the shins back into center.

 

 

Extend the right leg long towards the ceiling and grab behind the thigh or calf. Lower the left leg towards the mat…

 

Single Straight Leg Stretch

 

Tug the right leg towards you as the left leg moves down. Take two quick breaths in through the nose as you “tug” the leg.  Pulse twice in this position. Hold the crunch in your upper body as you switch legs and exhale through the mouth.  Keep the knees straight and work for a smooth transition from side to side.  A rep is a set on the right and left.  

 

 

Draw both legs together and press them into one another. Extend the legs up towards the ceiling…

 

Double Straight Leg Stretch

 

Inhale to lower both legs down to hover above the mat. Try for as low as you can without arching the low back. Exhale and hug the abdominal muscles in towards the spine as you lift the legs back up to the ceiling. Maintain the shoulderblades hovering off the mat and arms and fingertips reaching long and forward.

 

 

To transition, interlace the hands behind the head. Draw the left knee in and extend the right leg to the high diagonal…

 

Criss-cross

 

Exhale to lift the upper body to bring the right shoulder towards the left knee.  Maintain the lift as you inhale to rotate the head and shoulders through center as you change sides and legs. Exhale to bring the left shoulder blade towards the right knee.  A full set is a crunch on each side.

 

 

To finish, draw both legs into your chest and lower the head, neck, and shoulders to the mat.  Turn your neck heavy from side-to-side.

 

Tips for Good Technique

  • Keep the torso and hips stable throughout the whole series.
  • Legs should only lower towards the mat as much as you can without arching the low back.
  • Don’t rush it! Enjoy slow, fluid movements to get the most impact.
  • Pull the abdominal muscles in towards the spine instead of letting them press out.
  • Each exhale allows you to pull the stomach muscles in deeper.
  • Keep shoulders wide throughout the exercises.

 

Start with just a few repetitions of each exercise and work up to the full series!  You can also take a small break between each exercise as you build up strength.  

 

Watch here to see the series in action.  You’ll see only two sets of each exercise – but remember – the full Series of Five includes 10 sets of each exercise!  Give it a try yourself and enjoy the burn.

 

 

Follow us! @waveformspilates

Facebook, Instagram, & Pinterest

 

Click the image below to receive a copy of this series in a downloadable format!

 


Waveforms Spotlight: Rebecca L. – Benefits of Mind and Body from Pilates Practice

Contributing Author: Courtney Cerniglia

When you first see Pilates equipment, it can be intimidating. The different shapes and forms don’t allude to what they do for you. It’s easy to look at a set of weights and realize to pick them up. It makes sense to get on a treadmill and run. But what do you do with one of these?

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Rebecca had similar feelings a year ago. New to Pilates, and working out in general, she was apprehensive to try too many new exercises at once. “I was brand new,  I wasn’t even sure if my body was capable of performing the proper moves,” she reflected. This apprehension keeps many students out of the studio, and let’s face it, many people away from exercise. There are so many options, places, and programs to try…where do you start?

 

If you’re beginning your journey in living a healthier lifestyle, may we suggest incorporating Pilates. Rebecca took the leap to join a gym and met Courtney through personal training. Courtney shared a few Pilates exercises to pair with her gym workout and Rebecca liked the variation. Soon, she started taking Courtney’s mat classes and has been doing them ever since.

“Courtney was so great at working with my beginner skill level a year ago and has increased the difficulty over time. She made me feel so welcomed and comfortable right from the start that I have only missed a few classes since I started because I enjoy them so much,” Rebecca exclaimed.

 

Sticking with her mat class routine, Rebecca began to see and feel the effects of pairing Pilates with her diet and exercise. She grew stronger and more flexible, and saw weight loss as a result of her consistency.

The benefits didn’t stop there.  As she explained, “It has also improved my self confidence, not only because of the weight loss I have experienced, but also because I’ve gotten more advanced in techniques I never thought I could do.”

 

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Rebecca continues to work with Courtney in her mat classes at Waveforms Pilates. With the kindness and care she’s found in Courtney, it’s been something for her to look forward to each week as well as an investment in herself.

 

She encourages anyone who is nervous or intimidated by Pilates to try a few sessions with Courtney. “Courtney is dedicated to properly educating her clients and is willing to show adjustments for certain moves that could aggravate problem areas.” No matter what your ability, the classes are accessible and designed for all fitness levels.  And, with the classes capped at seven students you’re sure to get individualized attention each session.

 

In addition to receiving movement education in mat class, Rebecca has taken advantage of Waveforms Pilates free educational workshops throughout the year.  Rebecca attended a special workshop to learn about Foot alignment back in May, as well as a workshop talking about Forward Head Posture and Neck Placement during exercise in October.

 

Two-Feet Forward Workshop

Reflecting she describes, “The workshops have provided me with more in depth information about specific parts of the body.  Use of diagrams and exercises has helped me become more aware of my posture and alignment.”  This information can be applied both inside and outside of class, bringing body awareness beyond the walls of Waveforms Pilates.

 

Different bodies can benefit from different forms of movement. Enrolling in a mat class is a great way to learn more about your body and it’s capabilities. Rebecca has been practicing Pilates for over a year now, and she’s seen both mind and body benefits to taking the leap to practice Pilates.

 

Join Rebecca at Thursday Evening and Saturday morning mat class!  To find our current schedule and more information on the benefits of Pilates mat, visit our webpage.  Not sure if mat it a fit for you?  Contact us to schedule a complimentary introductory class today.

 

We hope to see you on the mat!

Pilates Mat


Getting Your Head on Straight – Pilates Exercises for Forward-Head Posture

By: Courtney Holcomb, Certified Pilates Instructor, Waveforms Pilates

 

How many text messages have you sent today?  When is the last time you pulled your head back to use your headrest in the car?  How often during the day do you spend on a smartphone, tablet, or at computer?  How many hours a day do you sit?

All of these things share something in common: They put stress on our head, neck, and shoulders.  All this, creates a lifestyle that leads to poor posture, muscular imbalances, and chronic pain.

 

The Physical Effects of Media Culture

In July of 2016, Nielsen Company released a report that the average American spends 10 hours and 39 minutes daily consuming media.  This “included how much time we spend daily using our tablets, smartphones, personal computers, multimedia devices, video games, radios, DVDs, DVRs and TVs.”  All this usage doesn’t come without a toll on our bodies.

Two physical effects come of excessive media use: forward posture of our head and a sedentary lifestyle. The sustained forward and downward movement of our head pulls our body out of alignment. Sitting for hours a day or maintaining a mostly sedentary lifestyle weakens the core muscles. Together, misalignment and decreased core strength drags us down a road of pain.

 

Pressure From the Head

The average head weighs 10-12 pounds.  For every one-inch forward our head extends beyond alignment, an additional 10 pounds of pressure is put on the spine.  Our spinal extensors begin to engage in a losing battle with gravity. They pull our whole spinal structure forward with our head.  This (now common) misalignment is known as Forward Head Posture (FHP).

FHP is an excessive anterior (forward) positioning of the head in relation to a vertical reference line.  Our spine is curved, so we are not trying to flatten our neck, but rather bring it back to rest on top of the spine.  When viewed in profile, the head is designed to sit stacked over the spine with the tip of the earlobe aligned with the center of the shoulder.

Proper Posture

We also receive a lot of pressure from the downward tilt of the neck.  Added gravitation pull of 15 degrees of tilt increases of the weight of pressure to 27 pounds. 30 degrees adds 40 pounds of pressure, and once you tilt to 60 degrees (like many of us do while texting), the increase is 60 pounds of pressure on the spinal cord.

This version of FHP is ironically called “Text Neck” by many doctors, and more formally called Tilting Head Posture (THP).

Pair Forward Head Posture, with Tilting Head Posture, and that’s a whole lot of pressure for the body to bear.

 

Physical Effects of Forward Head Posture

With the head forward, our deep cervical flexors (the muscles that pull our head back) become very weak from inactivity, and our cervical extensors become shortened (from being held so long in the forward position).  Because our bodies do their best to compensate for inefficiencies, other superficial muscles take on the job that the neck flexors and extensors were designed to do.  Our sternocleidomastoid, anterior scalenes, and other superficial neck muscles try and take on the job.  This causes overactivity for the muscles and less efficiency in the body.

The overactivity of the cervical extensors can cause neck pain, the most noted symptom of FHP. With the extra pressure on the spine, you could experience nerve pain leading to headaches.

forward-head-posture-5Not only do muscles try and do their part, but the spine also will begin to compensate.  Our body loves to counterbalance; as the head goes forward, the chest begins to go back, the hips respond by rounding forward, and the body perceives balance.  Now, we end up with a tight chest and upper back, and a pinched low back.  This common counterbalance act associated with FHP is called Upper Crossed Syndrome.

 

What’s the Big Deal?     

Just like Newton explained in his Laws of Physics, with every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  We cannot perpetually hold our body in a compromised posture and expect to not experience side effects.  There is a ripple effect throughout the whole body that becomes habit forming, for the better, or for the worse.  This becomes tight, that becomes weak.  This becomes long, that becomes short.

While the effects of our body are easy to visualize, other impacts aren’t obvious. Just as serious, poor posture threats our source of life: our breath.

FHP can result in up to 30% decrease in the lungs capacity. Rene Cailliet M.D., former director of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Southern California explains,  “These breath-related effects are primarily due to the loss of the cervical lordosis which blocks the action of the hyoid muscles, especially the inferior hyoid responsible for helping lift the first rib during inhalation.  Proper rib lifting action by the hyoids and anterior scalenes is essential for complete aeration of the lungs.”  Having a forward head limits the range of motion for the ribcage, causing a decrease in lung capacity.

 

Fixing Your Poor Posture to Prevent FHP

First we want to feel the effects of poor posture on our breathing. This will help us understand how damaging it can be for our well-being. Erik Dalton, PhD a pioneer of Myoskeletal Alignment Therapy, gives these simple instructions.

  1. Place your hand on your chest and breath normally.  Take a few inhales and exhales.  Sense your ability to make the chest rise and fall with each breath.
  2. Gently and carefully reach your head forward in space and take a few more breaths.  Sense the difference in the ability to move the chest.
  3. Pull the chin in and back, as if to make a “double-chin”, repeat a few inhales and exhales.

You should find that the movement of the chest decreases the further forward the head moves in relation to the spine.

 

Why Focus on the Head?

When the spine, muscles, and lungs are all affected, why focus primarily on the head?

I like how Rene Cailliett, M.D. put it:

“Most attempts to correct posture are directed toward the spine, shoulders and pelvis. All are important, but, head position takes precedence over all others. The body follows the head. Therefore, the entire body is best aligned by first restoring proper functional alignment to the head.”

We can begin to combat this by strengthening our deep neck flexors through lengthening and releasing our neck extensors.  A great rule of thumb for any imbalance in the body.  We want to strengthen what is weak and stretch what is tight.

 

How to Strengthen the Deep Neck Flexors

If our neck is already flexed forward, why are we working our neck flexor muscles?

The neck flexor muscles are what bring our head back to our spine.  Our deep neck flexors help pull the head back into alignment.  Here are three exercises I use in Pilates class that work these muscles.  Each exercise has increasing difficulty, so I advise working from top to bottom.

Also, start slowly.  The neck is a sensitive area, so begin with a few repetitions and work up to more.

 

1. Craniocervical Flexor Activation

Sit or stand and hold a loose fist underneath your chin.  Push upwards on your chin, but resist the head from tipping back.

Hold this connection for 5-10 seconds.

Repeat this 10x.

You should feel the muscles on the back of your neck engaged. Be careful not to push too hard, or to clench your first too hard.

 

2. Prone Neck Lift

Lay down on your stomach with your legs resting comfortably behind you.  Place your hands on top of one another and rest your forehead onto your hands.  Press the arms into the ground and lift the head and upper back off of your hands.  Make sure to keep the neck long and the chin tucked, as if you were holding a clementine between your chin and your chest.

Feel the neck flexors pull your head up towards the ceiling, and avoid the tendency to reach your chin forward to lift up.  Hold this for 10 seconds.

Reach energy out of the crown of the head (not leading with the chin) to lengthen and lower down.  You may find that you have to move your hands further away from lengthening and strengthening the neck.  Adjust as needed.

Repeat 5-10 times.

 

 

3.Head Hover

Lay on your back with your feet in the hook- line position (feet planted on the ground hip width apart, and knees at a 90-degree angle).

Rest your head and shoulders on the mat. Before you begin, imagine lengthening the back side of the neck to pull the chin slightly downward into a “double chin-like” position.  Take a breath in, and press the head lightly into the ground as if to push an imprint in memory foam, exhale and pick the head up off of the ground, while keeping the head parallel to the ground.

Sustain the hold for another breath or two, then lower back down.  Repeat 5-10 times.

You will feel the neck really work in this position!  You’ll also notice how heavy the head is with gravity working against you.

 

Stretching and Lengthening the Neck and Neck Extensors

After performing neck flexor exercises, it’s great to stretch the neck to help bring the head back into balance.  When stretching the neck, use caution and move slowly.  Use full breaths to support the stretch. I recommend the following stretches, these are also great after extensive time sitting at a desk, at a computer, or using your phone.

 

1. Neck Massage

Using a 4” or 6” diameter foam roller, place it lengthwise behind your neck.  Let the head rest back onto the foam roller.  Keeping the head heavy in gravity, Slowly turn the head from right to left. Nod the head up and down.

Trace small circles with the nose in each direction.  Do each step a few times before moving on to the next stretch.

 

2. Standing Neck Stretches

Stand up with the feet hip-width apart. Take your hands and interlace them at the nape of the neck.  Let the elbows be heavy and nod the chin towards the chest.  Do not pull on the neck, but let the elbows and head be heavy in gravity.

Return the head to upright and press the palms firmly together.  Place your middle fingers underneath the chin and gently press the chin up towards the ceiling.  Repeat each action a few times.

 

Correcting our Head Posture and Simple Habit Changes

As a culture, we have come to a place where many suffer from the effects of FHP and THP.  We need to get our heads on straight, or the pain and poor posture will only increase.

Though these are exercises to help us reverse the effects that have come from these conditions, there are other habits that can help us prevent or lessen it all together.  It all comes down to daily awareness of how we carry our bodies.  Here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Bring your phone to your eye level when using it.  Instead of flexing the neck down, lift your phone up.
  • Use your head rest while driving.
  • Request a standing desk at work, to bring your computer up to your eye level.
  • Take breaks from long periods of sitting down, and stretch out in between.
  • Actively practice the exercises for strengthening the deep neck flexors.
  • Be conscious of the amount of time you spend consuming media and your posture while doing so.
  • Strengthen your core muscles to help support your posture throughout the day.
  • Take Pilates classes to gain body awareness.

Finding the True “Core” of Fitness: Making Fitness Goals that Matter

By: Estin Holcomb, 2 months into Pilates training

Many of us think of training in terms of sweat equity. In order for a session to be thought of as a “success,” we should be tired, sweaty, hot, and sore. These symptoms equate to a good workout. I believed this for years, until I stepped into a Pilates mat class at Waveforms Pilates.

My transition from typical free weight resistance training and cardio (mainly running) to Pilates was not an easy one at first. I came in thinking the work I saw being done didn’t appear to be work at all. People who were training weren’t panting and out of breath; they weren’t beat red, dripping with sweat.

These physical signs had become my definition of a normal work out.

 

Stepping Into a Pilates Mat Class

 

My first few mat sessions I felt restless and a bit discouraged by the repeated corrections of my poor form and body posture. My trainer would tell me I was done because my technique was being compromised and she didn’t want me to get hurt, even though I felt I could do a lot more.

Estin Pilates Forward Flexion

The truth was my form was bad, my posture was poor, and my supportive muscle groups were weak. I had decent abdominal definition but my internal core muscles were weak and my low back was suffering as result. When we continue because we think we can do more, it can result in overuse injury, joint problems, cramping, or worse. This was a stark difference from the kind of exercise I was used to.

 

Setting Realistic Goals for Holistic Health

 

As my trainer worked with me my mindset started to change to focus on fitness goals that would increase the overall functionality of my body and improve my sense of well being. I noticed I feel taller and my limbs longer. I’m more flexible; I can bend over and touch my toes, twist and rotate my upper body from side to side, and tension I used to carry in my neck and shoulders has subsided. Most notable, I no longer experience muscle cramps through my shoulder and chest when I run.

img_4124Continuing Body Weight Pilates Training

 

Pilates resistance training focuses on form first, then builds strength and flexibility. Techniques are done slow and controlled. Through this transition, I feel like I’ve worked out without being beaten down and in pain the next day. This is making me more efficient when I train and leaving me with energy for my next session.

 

I am very excited to see what the future holds with my continued training. The beginning stages of a Pilates journey are full of exploration and discovery. For me thus far, redefining my idea of a work out has been beneficial for my overall health and training plan. It’s clear this redefinition has and will continue to be beneficial for my physical accomplishments going forward.


Pilates, More Than Just Mat (Beyond the Mat: How We Use Equipment for Resistance Training)

Resistance Training with Pilates Equipment

By: Courtney Holcomb, Certified Pilates Trainer, Waveforms Pilates

denise-austin-pilates-photo

Pilates, in the early Millennium, was often depicted in the media as housewives doing high-kicks while lying on their side.  Thank you Denise Austin!

While there is Pilates mat work like her style, it is a small piece of the school of Pilates.  When I explain Pilates, people often tell me they had no idea there is equipment available.

Many people are familiar with the small pieces of equipment used to complement a mat class – such as rings, balls, foam rollers, and hand weights. They’re less familiar, however, with the large pieces of equipment used in Pilates.

Don’t Worry…Looks Can Be Deceiving

Pilates equipment can appear to be quite intimidating and almost appear torturous.  It is the exact opposite!  People love the way it feels to move with the equipment and to experience the smooth and relaxed range of motion. Here’s a bit more insight to break down that barrier.

What Is Pilates Equipment?

Joseph Pilates, father of the Pilates Method, invented and patented over two-dozen pieces of exercise equipment.  Not meant to replace mat work, equipment training serves as a great complement to mat classes.  Some of the most common pieces of larger Pilates equipment include: the Universal Reformer, Wunda Chair, and the Trapeze Table/Cadillac.

In some cases, the equipment provides some precursory exercises to help you build strength for advanced mat work.  In other cases, the equipment exercises make similar mat exercises more challenging by adding resistance.

“I invented all these machines… it resists your movements in just the right way so those inner muscles really have to work against it. That way you can concentrate on movement. You must always do it slowly and smoothly. Then your whole body is in it.” – Joseph Pilates

 

How Does the Equipment Work?

 

Increased Resistance Training with Springs

Pilates is resistance training, just like weight lifting.  The main difference is that Pilates equipment primarily uses springs as the source of resistance instead of dumbbells or cable weights.  Springs need the user to maintain fluid range of motimg_3767ion from the beginning to end of an exercise.  If you try to “jerk” the range, or use momentum for exertion, the machine won’t function properly – so there’s no cheating! The springs also help you control both the flexion and the extension range, allowing you to use the fullest range of your muscles.

This fluid control causes the muscle to also be stretched during the exercise, which improves flexibility and overall strength.  Resistance can also be increased or decreased based on how many springs you attach and where you attach them.  Not to mention, springs help trigger your deep core muscles as you negotiate finding balance and stability.

Closed-Chain Exercises & Pulleys

Working with the springs and pulleys associated with some Pilates equipment, you are able to perform more closed-chain kinetic exercises.  Closed-chain exercises increase the force on the joint to increase stability.  Closing off the kinetic chain by having a grounding point, helps protect connective cartilage and the joint itself.  These types of exercises also work multiple muscles and joints at a time, making them very efficient.

Anyone who has experienced an injury, in conjunction with, and post physical therapy, working in a closed-chain manner is safer. Other populations that benefit from this type of execise include: those with osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, hypermobility of joints, muscle weakness, and middle-aged to older adults.img_3766

The equipment helps to train and reinforce symmetry in body, by working with even force on both sides.  For example, placing both hands in separate equal-length straps, you must press with even force with both arms in order to move the machine.

Using Gravity and Body weight for Resistance

The higher off the ground you are, the greater the effect gravity has on your body.  With the Pilates equipment raising you off the floor, you experience more natural resistance from gravity.  Just like with mat work, most exercises incorporate body weight resistance and gravitational forces.

Versatility of Pilates Equipment

 

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The Universal Pilates Reformer

Working the Body in All Positions

Exercises on the Pilates equipment mimic movement actions that you use in daily life.  This makes the exercises applicable and practical outside of the gym.  The equipment can be used seated, lying down, kneeling, standing, side-lying, flexing forward, curving backwards, and rotating.  Any possible position you could find yourself throughout the day, there is an exercise for it!  This creates a full-body workout every time and provides functional fitness.

Incorporating Pilates Equipment Training with Physical Therapy

Joseph Pilates made his first piece of equipment working with wounded soldiers by taking two springs from under their cots and attaching them to the bed frame with a pole.  If someone had a leg injury, there is no reason they couldn’t work their upper body!

Many people use time on Pilates equipment for post-physical therapy work, or in conjunction with their physical therapy.  Many special populations such as people with osteoporosis, hip replacements, MS, pregnant women, and people with scoliosis, to name a few, are able to utilize Pilates equipment to perform safe exercises and stay in shape.

Exercises for All Populations

Don’t be fooled though, the equipment can give a vigorous workout!  It’s not just for rehabilitation.  Professional athletes all over the world use Pilates equipment to help with injury prevention, alignment, flexibility, core, and overall strength.  The possibilities truly are endless.  There are modifications to make each exercise more or less challenging based on the client’s abilities and goals.

 

Feel The Pilates Resistance Difference!

 

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The Pilates Chair

The best way to understand the difference between traditional resistance training and Pilates resistance training is to feel the difference!

Pilates equipment trains the whole body instead of individual parts, making for a complete full-body workout every time.  The resistance is smooth and demands control from start to finish to create a fullest range for the muscle.  The fluid sensation created from the springs provides stretch and strength to the body and gives support for the joints.

Sign-up for a session to feel the difference today!

waveforms@yandex.com

(920)740-3085


Two-Feet Forward – A look at the body from Sole to Spine

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Category : exercises , Pilates

We stand on them every day, they propel us forward through space, and they support our whole body weight.  We smash them, stomp them, twist them, and lift them.

That’s right, our feet!

When is the last time you treated your feet to a sweet treat? Let it be a massage, pedicure, or a nice rub?  The reality is, for how much our feet work for us all day, we don’t often take the time to treat them well.

Think about it for a minute.  Have you ever walked into the gym and thought, “Okay, today is going to be a foot day”  If so, I am impressed.  We often go to our standard “biceps, triceps, throw in some legs, cardio, and call it a day”, type workout.

Feet are often overlooked when it comes to our regular fitness regimen.  When our feet are weak the rest of our body has to compensate to find strength, balance, and control from somewhere else. Because our feet are the source of contact with the ground, the more stability we can find the less we have to work to stay stable.

 

Studying Foot Anatomy for Movement

Did you know our whole body is comprised of 206 bones? Of those bones, over 25% are found in our feet. Each foot has 26 bones and 33 joints. Though we may not think of the foot as a very mobile part of our body, it is constructed for movement potential.

Having healthy mobility is a crucial part of foot health. The more we learn to mobilize a part of our body, the more we need find stability from somewhere else to support the movement.  Every joint needs a healthy balance of mobility and stability.

 

Working Out Our Feet

Children are often playing barefoot, running around, participating in sports and athletic activities, jumping on the trampoline, biking, playing tag – giving their feet a run for their money.  In a mindless way, children are working out their feet all the time.  Muscles will naturally weaken over time; it goes back to the age old saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it”.  Though as adult we may still play around in some of these ways, our feet are likely out of practice.  3-arches-of-foot

The main way we can work to strengthen our feet begins in our arches.  Though we often think of one arch, the foot itself is actually comprised of three arches. The transverse arch spans horizontally across the ball of the foot. Our medial arch forms a line from the ball of the big toe, down to the center of the heel.  Our lateral arch begins at the ball of the pinkie toe and travels down to the heel.  These three points form a triangle from the big toe, to the little toe, and to the center of the heel.  This triangle is often referred to as the “keystone” of the foot.  Together, the three arches form a lift for shock-absorption and work in conjunction with one another for propulsion through space.

Feet Exercises for Foot Health

Doming for Foot Strength

A great way to build strength in the arches is an exercise called doming.  In doming, we work to lift the keystone of the foot up and off of the ground (big toe, little toe, center of the heel).  Imagine this area is puffing up like parachute.

dome foot and relaxedTry working one foot at a time, and while standing, keep the heel and the toes connect to the ground.  Begin to draw the toes towards the heel and sustain a hold for around ten seconds, then release the toes back away from the heels.  Try to not scrunch the toes as you do this, keeping the toes as long as possible.  Reverse the direction.  Keep the toes connected to the ground, and lift the arch by drawing the heel towards the toes, sustain and release back down.  The sensation through the arches should feel like a small “muscle cramp”.

 

Sensing Your Weight Distribution

Because the foot has so many joints and bones, it’s easy to create imbalances in how we carry our weight.  Having proper weight distribution helps us align the leg properly from the ground up: foot, ankle, knee, and hip.  Good alignment leads to less pain throughout the joint and efficiency in the body.

Stand up tall barefoot and sense where you feel the most weight on your foot.  Is it on the ball of the foot? The heel? The inside edge? The outside edge?  Depending on the strength of your arches you may feel more, or less, in different locations of the foot.  Take notice of these sensations.

Now, shift and adjust your weight to feel the most weight on the center of your heel, second most weight on the ball of your big toe, and third most on the ball of the fifth toe.  This is the weight distribution that gives us optimum support. Heel center, big toe, little toe, still all three remaining contact with the ground.  Can you sense weight in all three locations?  Can you feel the adjustments of weight distribution in the legs, pelvis, and all the way up the spine?   Play around with shifting your weight through the foot and see if you can soften the rest of the body enough to feel how each small movement resonates all the way from sole to spine.

 

Move That Foot!: Articulation

With the foot often confined in a shoe during the day, it craves movement.  Gaining mobility in the feet helps us with balance and injury prevention.

Standing up tall, spread out the toes as much as you can.  Make sure all your weight distribution points of the “triangle” are connected to the ground.  Press down your big toe and try and lift the other four toes off of the ground.  Reverse the action and press the four toes down and try and lift up just the big toe.  Make sure your weight it still distributed evenly.

Repeat this a few times, and for a challenge, try both feet at the same time.  For even more challenge, can you lift the big toe up on one foot, and the four toes up on the other?  Try playing the toes like a piano, lifting all toes and then rolling from fifth toe in to big toe, and reverse the action from big toe out to fifth toe.

Overtime, your ability to isolate the movements of the foot will increase.  Do not be frustrated if you cannot perform all of these exercises today.  These articulations are great exercises for connecting mind and body.  Our brain has to tell our foot what to do.  Try looking at the foot while you ask it to move, the visual may assist you.

Let’s get the ankle involved now too.  Standing up tall, press one foot forward as if you were wearing a high-heel. Keep the ball of the foot connected to the ground, and trace a circle with your heel in one direction.  Move the ankle around five to ten times and then change directions, stirring a circle with the heel.  Repeat this on the other foot.  You may hear or feel “pops” throughout the ankle and foot as you move it.  This is perfectly normal.

 

Release for the Feet

Though a daily massage would be an enjoyable solution for sore feet, it may not be practical for all of us.  One of the best ways to treat your feet is to roll them out for release.  Afterall, they work hard for us all day!  Muscle release for the feet increases circulation and creates relaxation after a long day.

IMG_2511Balanced Body makes a “Pinky ball”, a hard rubber 2.5” ball for foot release work.  If you don’t have access to this at home, a tennis ball, racquetball, or even a spiky dryer ball can do the trick.

Place pressure and roll through the arches of the foot on the ball.  Control the amount of pressure that is not just tolerable, but also pleasant, and let the surface area of the bottom of your foot open up and release on the ball.  Move the ball in all directions and enjoy for 3 – 5 minutes.  Remove the ball from under the foot and feel the benefit, then change to the other foot.  The foot will feel softened closer down to earth as the tension of the fascia in the foot become released.

 

Moving with Two-Feet Forward

Though gone may be the days that you play outside barefoot, we must challenge ourselves to engage our feet more. Give them the workout the deserve and treat them well for carrying your body all day.  Beyond the suggested exercises, other great ways to create more strength in the feet is to be barefoot more often, feel the grass and sand between your toes, and challenge your feet in various terrains.

Jump, skip, and frolic without shoes.  Be liberated from confines of the leather prison!  We challenge you to move with two-feet forward, having consciousness about your feet, and trusting yourself from the ground-up.  Take the time to treat you feet well, and feel the benefit from sole-to-spine.

Pilates offers many additional exercises for foot and ankle strengthening.  Sign-up for our e-mail list to get updates on additional articles and exercises for a healthier life.

Courtney Holcomb, Certified Pilates Instructor, Waveforms Pilates

waveforms@yandex.com

http://waveformspilates.com